Third Shift Announces Theme for 2021 Festival

Category: arts 314

Saint John’s festival of public contemporary artworks is currently seeking artist proposals under the theme – Traverse.

Matt Carter 

In a relatively short period of time, the Saint John contemporary arts festival, Third Shift, has grown to become one of the most anticipated events on the province’s cultural calendar. For many artists and art lovers, Third Shift represents a unique moment in time when odd, unusual or sometimes challenging works of art can exist publicly without limitations. Past installations have included everything from back alley light and projection shows to parking lot film screenings and roving packs of improvisational musicians pulling amps on wagons while generating a blissful racket. By design, Third Shift has always been a free space, a blank canvas, and an event where audiences come to expect the unexpected. 

Since 2015, the members of Third Space Gallery, a Saint John-based artist-run-centre, have included Third Shift as one of the many events they organize each year. While no two Third Shift events have ever been the same, a loose form helped guide the initial event and served as a template to grow upon. Thanks to the arrival of COVID-19, the festival’s steady evolution took a different turn last year with the event moving much of its programming into cyberspace. Although the audience experience was altered somewhat, the festival was able to stay true to its mandate as a platform for new experiences and communal exchange.

What’s Not Happening? by Tourism & Information, a project by artists Paul Henderson and Amy Siegel included as part of Third Shift 2020.

“Third Space is very flexible. Not having a physical gallery space has been kind of a blessing, especially during COVID,” said Third Space executive director Katie Buckley. “And Third Shift is the most flexible event possible. It doesn’t even have to be an actual event in the traditional sense. 

“When COVID set in last year, it didn’t even occur to me to cancel the event. The goal is to pay artists to create and if artists are still creating, it’s important to support them so we expanded the model to include a full week of programming.

“This year, Third Shift is operating on the same framework as last year,” said Buckley. “It involves a hybrid model which is partially physical, partially digital.  Last year we even had some projects that bridged the two, which was really neat. Although there may have been a bit of fatigue happening for digital things, we found that people were still willing to log on and interact with digital art.”

As organizers set their sights on the 2021 event planned to take place August 19-22 in Uptown Saint John, Buckley and her team hope to build upon last year’s structure by introducing the festival’s first theme – Traverse. 

“It’s fairly common for similar festivals to have themes,” said Buckley. “When Third Shift started and it was a one night event it was fairly straightforward – everyone go to this one place at the same time. But now we don’t have that with our current structure. From an administrative standpoint, it’s fun having a theme because you can pull a thread through everything and promote it as one unit. Plus it’s fun to just mix things up a little bit.

“Traverse is an intentionally broad theme. It can relate to space, time, place, past and future, intersections of mediums, and transcending boundaries. We’ve already heard a lot of good feedback from artists telling us they’re excited by it or inspired by it.”

Artists submissions for Third Shift 2021 will run until March 21.  To submit a proposal or to learn more about Third Shift and all of Third Space’s programming, visit


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